Crumbling Infrastructure

Q: “Crumbling infrastructure? Decreased enrollment in trade schools?

How about letting the rest of us read it?” Moose —  desertengineer

Mike’s Reply 6/27/08 (compilation reply to many)

A: Hi Moose,

if I send it, you’ll see it, as will everyone else, since it will be an “open letter.” I haven’t decided yet if I want to go there, but if I do, it will be part of a dual effort to promote the show, while doing something worthwhile with this nightmare of a resume. Though unqualified in almost every way, I have been afforded an audience with the kind of workers both candidates seem desperate to align themselves with. Likewise, I’ve had the opportunity to talk at length with business leaders in many of the industries featured on the show. There is a consensus among many that the aforementioned issues are huge, and potentially disastrous if ignored. I think it might be worthwhile to call attention to these matters, since they relate so directly to many of the jobs we feature on the program.

“I would hold off on sending a letter unless you know how to defend your rhetoric.”

Thank you Nola. Your advice is invaluable.

“And have worked a dirty job in the work force earning their pay and not being given freebies.”

Thank you Nola. Your tone is both delightful and inspiring.

Dsutton writes,

“I know Obama, and he knows me. Not well, it usually takes some, “Ummm, errr…” but he can usually dredge up my name. I’ve written to him, and all of the congresscritters who represent me. Often. Mike could possibly get their attention more readily than I can, simply because he’s a celebrity.”

Hi D,

Personally, I have no interest in getting the attention of either candidate. What I’d like to do, is get the attention of several million people focused on the issues. The candidate’s attention will follow.

“Here’s a fact: I know far more about working in a dirty job than any TV personality does.”


“Here’s another fact: Those important people are responsible for any crumbling going on out there.”

And so are those who voted for them. We’re all responsible. As a society, we have made work the enemy, while still expecting a never-ending rise in our standard of living. The infrastructure isn’t the only big problem facing the country, but it just might be the most ignored, and the most serious, considering its ramifications.

“Getting a new bridge built pays way more in political capital than painting and resurfacing.”

Very true.

onthecrab says,

“Even though Mike has not done a job for more than a few hours, I think he gets a good idea of what it entails. I bet he knows more about this country and its infrastructure than any politician ever will.”

Thanks Loretta. It’s true, but I’m afraid you overestimate my knowledge. Or perhaps, underestimate the awareness of our elected officials. I assure you, they are keenly aware of the problem. They are also aware of the need to get re-elected, and as D points out, spending tax money to fix a bridge that hasn’t yet fallen is not a sexy platform. I’m afraid the people who are most ignorant of our crumbling infrastructure, are the people who rely most upon it – us.

“Do you really think Washington would take Mike seriously since he has worked most of his life in the entertainment industry avoiding real laborious work?”

Thank you Nola, for your continued support, and your probing questions.

“Have I lost my mind here!?”

Hi Diana,

I hope not. I’ve always liked your mind.

“Hasn’t Mike said *repeatedly* that he disdains celebrities that espouse a political position?”

Yes, he has. But demonizing work is not a political position – it’s a social phenomenon, with consequences larger than any one candidate or party. Calling attention to that, is not a political move, it’s an observation.

“He’s also repeatedly expressed his, for lack of a better term, ignorance of the jobs he’s done?”


“Have I missed something????”

Yes, you have.

“One does not have to be an expert to voice an opinion.”

Amen, Susan. Wouldn’t be much to talk about here otherwise.

“I do believe, however, that he most likely knows what the h*ll he is talking about. From his other posts, it seems to me that he does a good amount of research before opening his mouth.”

Thanks. I try to be thoughtful. And I’m aware, that for a brief period of time, people are listening to what I have to say. This year, as we promote another season of exploding toilets and misadventures in animal husbandry, I’d like to elevate the conversation a bit. Focus more on the themes, and the underlying parts of the show that affect us all. Trades. Infrastructure. Work ethic. etc…

“Mike Rowe’s resume is in the entertainment industry. He has lived the beach bum lifestyle. A playboy of the western world. He has been an actor, singer, voice over announcer and TV personality. Dirty Jobs had a short run as a pilot show in 2003 and the show was on TV beginning in the Fall of 2005. Someone that does a job one day at best and has never worked hard for 5, 10, 15, or 20 years in the same job as the people in his show. He has never done a job long enough to really be a spokesman except on how to avoid working.”

That settles it Nola. I’m firing my publicist. You’re hired!

“I couldn’t disagree more. Mike has spent the past three years making a TV show about dirty jobs. He has not immersed himself, and it doesn’t make him ‘authentic’.

Hi again, D

Authenticity – in TV and life – is usually achieved when a person makes a claim and lives up to it. On Dirty Jobs, my claim has never varied. I “search the country, looking for people who aren’t afraid to get dirty.” That’s it. It’s a modest claim, but one I can usually make good on. Additionally, I let you see me at my absolute worst. I am vulnerable. I try. I often fail, quite visibly, but attempt to do so with whatever humor and grace I can muster. For these reasons, people find me authentic.

“In fact, if I’m not mistaken he has never, himself, claimed to be an expert at anything, and if anything has tried to avoid being painted as such.”

Quite right. I take great care to make sure I am never confused with an expert. It’s difficult, because people are always looking for “experts,” and try very hard to make me one. People it seems, aspire to be “experts.” The Discovery channel is full of “experts.” Personally, I am deeply suspicious of that title, and can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would identify themselves as such – even if they are. (Such praise is more credible, in my opinion, when offered by a third party.)

“I really enjoy Dirty Jobs, but if I thought for a moment that it claimed to be an authentic look at what it really meant to do a dirty job every day, it would offend me very much.”

Authenticity is only relevant to point of view. Dirty Jobs relies upon a central point of view, (mine,) to hold together the experience of going from one job to the next. In that regard, I’d comfortably claim that the show does in fact provide an authentic look at what it means to do a dirty job every day. Incorporating the crew into the show was very important to its authenticity, and something I strove for from the outset. Seeing the crew in the act of doing their job is important, because it shows another aspect of real people working real hard, and more often than not, getting very dirty. (Yes, shooting Dirty Jobs is a dirty job.)

“I work a truly dirty job, ten hours a day, six days a week, and there are a fair few Sundays thrown in to boot. I am an expert.”

Again, congratulations. I’m not in a position to question your expertise, or your work ethic. Nor would I. But your own authenticity will depend upon your ability to maintain that “expert” status. Good luck with that. And though I probably couldn’t do your job, I’d trade schedules with you any day…

“People fail to realize that Dirty Jobs entertains someone for one hour and the host goes home.”

Hi Nola. As my new publicist, I have to point out that while Dirty Jobs is in fact a one hour program, each job takes a minimum of 10 hours to shoot. Some, as long as sixteen. Is it wise you think, to portray me as a guy who works a one-hour day? Won’t that make people think I’ve got it easy?

“He wields a Blackberry to keep up with his busy life. He gets all the frills of a celebrity…VIP status at a health club where he doesn’t have to pay. A spokesman for two large industries. He adorns several magazine covers. Discovery whisks him off to do promotional spots for his show.”

Look, Nola. I’m sure this new PR strategy of yours will eventually pay off, but I remain baffled by your tactics. Please advise.

Meg writes,

“I must be crazy. I read that interview & laughed at the letter part. I thought “Way to go Mike. That would be taking free & national publicity for DJ to a whole new level. That’s brilliant!” I never thought he was serious about actually writing a letter but I believe he believes in his message in his “letter”.”

Smart girl.

“I’m more interested in his comments that they have profiled workers who said “This job is dirty and it s@cks and I’d much rather be sitting behind a desk somewhere” What episodes were those?”

There are actually many moments in the show where I workers have proclaimed their personal distaste for a specific job or task or boss. Most recently, on The Legacy in Dutch, when I asked the mate if he liked his job and he just looked at me like I was insane. Every now and then, those moments are important, because the truth is, not everybody with a dirty job is content. To suggest otherwise is way too earnest, and dare I say, not authentic?

Grasshooper says,

“I really don’t think Mike would write and send a letter full of just rhetoric. If he feels so strongly about this that he has indeed written a letter to the candidates, I’m pretty sure he will be reasonably ready to support his premise. And it seems to me that all types of people are free to send all manner of letter as concerned citizens…and rightfully so. Surely the almost 200 “blue collar” jobs he has done have given him plenty of perspective in this area.”

Thanks. I have nothing to plead but my record, and that’s it – only one claim of any distinction – Namely, that I have had more jobs than just about anybody. Does that qualify me for anything? No. But it does lend considerable perspective. It gets people’s attention. And that’s the name of the game.

Kelby writes,

“I am being totally honest here when I ask; why should Mike do a show to “prove he has what it takes”? Why does he need to prove anything to America?”

It’s a good question Kelby. I’m sure my new publicist has an explanation.

“Have I missed a post where he claims to be the poster child for working America?”

No. I would never make such a claim. It’s funny though. People see and hear what they want. Several months ago, Jay Leno introduced me as “Hero to the working class, Mike Rowe!” All I could think of as I walked to the chair was ‘Dear God, if I’m a hero to the working class, it just goes to show how badly the working class needs a hero.’

“If Mike wants to write a letter to Obama or McCain or Congress or Greenpeace or even Ronald McDonald complaining about the cheap toys in his Happy Meal, I mean seriously, who give a flying flip?

Thank you Kelby. I have been deeply disappointed in the Happy Meal for some time, and have already fired off a nasty missive.

“He has never done a job long enough to really be a spokesman except on how to avoid working.”

OK, Nola, I’m seriously concerned about your commitment to this new job. Why are you saying such bizarre things? If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were trying to destroy me. Good grief woman, I spent over three hundred days on the road last year, WORKING. Three hundred nights, away from home. With Barsky. Three. Hundred. Nights. I shot over 30 hours of prime time TV. I shot dozens of national network commercials. I narrated half a dozen different shows. I write every single day. I promote the show ever week. I contribute to this board regularly. Can’t you find a way to spin those facts into a simple sound bite that doesn’t make me sound like a lay-a-bout?

“This is what I would do if he really wanted to be a citizen with celebrity status:

Mail an autographed photo with your letter and the required money to get the politicians to sit up and take notice.”

What? Nola, are you kidding? That’s it? That’s your advice?

I’m sorry, but I feel compelled to begin the search for a new publicist. Consider this your two second notice.

“NOLA, I find it incredible that you have such a low opinion of Mike yet you have 6716 posts on his message board. If I felt like that, I wouldn’t spend my time here.”


I find myself in consistent, violent agreement with this and most of your comments.

Nola, you’re fired.

Empty your desk. Leave the restroom key on the file cabinet.

Kay, when can you start?

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